A decade and a half of environmental legislation

A blog post by Alastair Alford

Alastair Alford
Senior Officer, Local Environmental Quality

Posted 14/11/2023

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Alastair, our Senior Officer, Local Environmental Quality, has been with us for more than 15 years. With an extensive background in training for large public sector organisations, here he shares his insights over a decade and a half in environmental legislation.

I have worked in environmental legislation for 15 years. My role with Keep Scotland Beautiful is, amongst other things, primarily to train local authority enforcement officers in the application of the law regarding those people who commit environmental crimes.

Keep Scotland Beautiful runs several training programmes: from Nature & Biodiversity, Climate Emergency and Conflict Management to all things relating to litter and waste legislation. The training in which I am most involved concerns the latter.

It is my responsibility to keep up to date with all the legislation that covers environmental crimes so that I can advise local authority enforcement officers on how best to enforce said legislation.

Litter and waste legislation is mostly concerned with enforcement. You may have heard about (or even received!) a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for an environmental crime – littering, flytipping or dog fouling. This is the most common type of enforcement. A FPN can be issued by officers authorised by the local authority, by the police, by SEPA officers and by rangers from the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The amount of the FPN starts at £80 and can go up to £400. For more serious environmental crimes, such as businesses failing in their Duty of Care – which means they may not store waste securely, they may not use an authorised waste carrier or they may not keep records of the waste they produce – reports will be made to the Procurator Fiscal and when prosecuted, the penalties can be severe.

For instance, for those offenders who have been found guilty of flytipping hazardous materials, the penalty can be an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence.

What I enjoy most about the training [is] the craic, the repartee, the wit, the blether or any other way you like to say it.

Until the lockdown in 2020 almost all our training was delivered at our Stirling offices when we tended to have a mix of local authorities attending. Over lockdown, we experimented with online training which, after a few teething pains, seemed to work very well. One of the great advantages for this was that people did not have to travel, thereby saving time, costs and, most importantly, they cut their carbon footprint.

We still deliver online training but more often we travel to a local authority to deliver in-person training. This is my preferred training format and not just because it means that my dogs cannot join in. In-person training allows for a freer exchange of ideas, better participation and a greater opportunity to get to know the enforcement officers.

I see our training role as being the go-to organisation which is always up to date with existing legislation and can feed that knowledge to enforcement teams. We are also the link for authorities where we can share good practice between them. I am often amazed by the inventiveness of some authorities’ interventions for dealing with litter and waste. Each authority works extremely hard to put in measures to prevent offending. However, those measures will not solve all the issues and the other side of that is that they must also work extremely hard to identify and to fine or to prosecute offenders. It is a tough ask and our job at Keep Scotland Beautiful is to do everything we can to help them.

After 15 years at Keep Scotland Beautiful and thousands of officers trained, what have I learned? Well, an enforcement officer/warden is a rare breed. They must be thick-skinned (yes, some members of the public are rude!), they must know the legislation, be good with people, serious about their job, confident and, most important, have a great sense of humour. So, with all that in their bags of tricks, I know I have learned more from them than they could possibly imagine.

I’d also like to say what I enjoy most about the training. It’s the craic, the repartee, the wit, the blether or any other way you like to say it. After all, there are hundreds of non-Scots who have come to Scotland, and many have decided to work in enforcement.

Penultimately, if you work in enforcement and you have not had your training (or if you are thinking of refreshing your knowledge), please get in touch. Also, it isn’t just the legal stuff we deliver. There’s all the training I mentioned in the second paragraph.

I’ll end by saying that this training blog is really a thank you to all you officers who made (and continue to make) me laugh, educated me and who work so extremely hard to keep Scotland beautiful. Thank you.

We have a wide range of training available to suit people of all ages, from different sectors, and our training can be tailored to best suit your needs. Visit Training | Keep Scotland Beautiful to learn more.

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